Very blurry role for open source software in the Administration

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At a time when the phrase, “public policy evaluation”, has never been so popular, the French Minister of Economy and Finance is struggling to assess the impact of the Ayrault Circular Letter on open source software.

Toward the end of 2015, MP Isabelle Attard called out the minister on the tangible results of the Ayrault Circular Letter. As a reminder, the 2012 circular letter had delighted supporters of open source software, whose use it recommended. The minister’s response was published yesterday in the Official Gazette, during a media cycle that has been particularly tumultuous since the broadcast of the latest opus from television show Cash Investigation.

Bercy unable to distinguish open source from proprietary

Indeed, we have known the Ministry of Finance to be more inclined to analyse spending but, as the minister declared, “[g]iven the current state of IT accounting tools and processes, it is not possible to isolate expenditures linked to open source software”. By way of an argument, the minister recalled that the circular letter was not an incitement, but rather pushed the Administration “to systematically consider open source software on equal footing with other solutions”.

€30 million on support in six years

This response tells us that, “[a]t the Public Finances General Directorate (DGFiP), the use of open source software dates back to 2000. Linux is installed on most servers. The messaging system is made entirely of open source software, and staff workstations are equipped with an open source office suite and browser”.

Although unable to accurately assess open source software as a proportion of all the solutions in use, Bercy has provided some information on the budget for support. This spending was incurred to correct errors and to study and roll out solutions. “Between year-end 2008 and year-end 2014, €30 million were spent” by the ministry in the field of open source software support. This amount seems relatively low in the light of the results of a previous assessment of total software expenditures, which reported average annual spending of close to €90 million.

Source: NextInpact

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